Jon Robertson admits that classical music is a “niche”—its atmosphere hushed, its repertory hallowed. But the pops style of symphonic music is an entirely different animal, a place where the same standards of performance quality meet an environment where singing, foot-tapping and general revelry are encouraged.
Once a year, Lynn Conservatory of Music’s Gingerbread Holiday Concert indulges in such an event, a spectacle for the eye and ear alike. Returning Dec. 11, the 19th-annual fundraiser supports tuition costs for its conservatory students, and is anticipated by many in the Boca community as the kickoff to the “season.” (Boca magazine is a regular sponsor of the concert.)
For this year’s performance, Robertson, dean of Lynn’s Conservatory of Music, expects the arrangements to take a jazzier direction than in years’ past, while the programming will reflect both Jewish and Christian backgrounds. “Each year we try to say something new and different,” he says. “And that’s a huge challenge. After each concert, particularly if it goes well, I get together with my librarian, and we bemoan, ‘what are we going to do next year? What can we do to top this?’ There is a lot of energy and research that goes in trying to find things that will be spectacular.”
How is the atmosphere of the Gingerbread Concert different from a typical conservatory performance?
It’s far more celebratory than going to a concert. We communicate with the audience. We have a sing-along with the fun Christmas songs that everybody enjoys. Santa makes his appearance, which the kids absolutely adore. He comes down, and we bring all the kids down front, and I think he hands out some candy. … It’s a very different atmosphere than when you go to a concert, as far as straitlaced, and you’re on your best behavior, so to speak.
Does that extend to the players as well?
Very much so. They recently have been dressed in holiday outfits, and some of the young ladies are in gowns, and the guys have on red bow ties. It’s a completely different atmosphere—fun-loving.
Can you talk about the difference between hearing the conservatory perform a holiday number, versus hearing the Bing Crosby version on the radio?
The symphony orchestra is certainly a unique instrument. We run the full orchestra—40 or 50 strings, for example, and all the winds and the brass and the percussion. And most celebratory music usually entails large percussion things—whistles, and people banging around. [It’s not] a voice singing with a little background; it’s the entire background on steroids, in your face. And when you have world-class arrangers doing what they’re doing, it’s really something to behold.
Why is holiday music so popular, cutting across so many ages, demographics, even faiths?
I think because it usually spawns a tremendous sense of joy. Gosh, we live in a time in society when joy and peace and a sense of optimism are so necessary. You hate to turn the news on—what new catastrophe are you going to have to emotionally deal with? And this music cuts across all that. It just makes you feel good.
Do you have other news from the conservatory?
This past year has been a banner year for many of our students winning competitions, both nationally and internationally—and regionally. A number of our students have obtained positions in full-time orchestras. That’s a moment of truth, to be able to make that gigantic leap over the chasm of “I’m in school, I graduate and now I’m out doing what I went to school to prepare for.” This has been probably the best year of the 17 years I’ve been involved with the conservatory, for students winning competitions and getting jobs.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Gingerbread Holiday Concert
WHERE: Wold Performing Arts Center at Lynn University, 3601 N. Military Trail, Boca Raton
WHEN: Dec. 11, 3 p.m.
COST: Starting at $35
CONTACT: 561/237-9000; lynn.edu